Mohali : Wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow (89) saved England’s blushes as the visitors reached 268/8 at stumps on the opening day of the third Test against India at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) I.S. Bindra Stadium here on Saturday.
At stumps, tailenders Abdul Rashid (4) and Gareth Batty (0) were at the crease.
Bairstow fell 11 short of what could have been his fourth Test century when off-spinner Jayant Yadav trapped him in front just before the day’s play ended. His 177-ball knock included six boundaries.
Despite losing his partners at the other end, Bairstow played the sheet anchor’s role well to bring up his half-century in 76 balls.
Coming together at the fall of Moeen Ali (16), Bairstow forged a 57-run stand with Ben Stokes (29) before being separated by left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja after the lunch break.
Stokes, who went in for an ambitious drive was cleverly foxed by Jadeja leaving the rest to stumper Parthiv Patel, who lost no time in stumping the English all-rounder.
The fall of Stokes brought in part-time stumper Jos Butler, who was recalled to the England side in place of a struggling Ben Duckett.
Buttler and Bairstow then added 69 runs to help restore some measure of respectability to the England scoreboard.
Just when the partnership looked threatening, Jadeja once again struck after the tea break to dismiss Buttler, who looked set to reach his half ton.
Buttler, who consumed 80 balls, went in for a flashy drive off Jadeja, only to find India skipper Virat Kohli’s safe hands at mid-off. His knock included five hits to the fence.
Bairstow then survived a futile review from India to forge another crucial stand of 45 runs for the seventh wicket with Chris Woakes (25) before Jayant found him plump in front from around the wicket. Woakes then departed in the penultimate over of the day to leave England reeling at 266/8.
The day mostly belonged to the Indian bowlers, who stuck to a tight line and length as England lost the plot right in the first session of play.
For the hosts, Jadeja, Umesh Yadav and Jayant took two wickets each while pacer Mohammed Shami and senior offie Ravichandran Ashwin bagged one wicket apiece.
Earlier, inspired by a disciplined bowling effort, India reduced England to 92/4 by lunch.
Electing to bat after winning the toss, England lost opener Haseeb Hameed (9) before skipper Alastair Cook (27) and Joe Root (15) took them past the 50-run mark.
But the hosts quickly turned it around with three quick wickets of Cook, Root and Moeen Ali (16) just before the lunch break to put the visitors on the backfoot.
Teenaged opener Hameed, who survived 31 balls, was the first casualty for the English side when a short of a good length delivery from pacer Umesh Yadav hit his gloves to give an easy catch to Ajinkya Rahane at gully.
Root then joined Cook in the middle but failed to impress before succumbing leg before to off-spinner Jayant Yadav as the visitors were reduced to 51/2.
Cook, meanwhile failed to capitalise on the two dropped chances – dropped on 4 by Ravindra Jadeja and then on 23 by Ravichandran Ashwin – both off pacer Mohammed Shami.
His 42-ball vigil at the crease was cut short by a short and wide delivery from Ashwin, which resulted in a thin edge for stumper Parthiv Patel. Cook batted fluently for his 27, which was laced with six hits to the fence.
Tottering at 51/3, Kohli immediately brought back Shami into the attack and the Bengal pacer responded beautifully by packing off left-hander Ali.
Back for his second spell, Shami induced Ali with a short delivery, which resulted in a top edge only to be caught at fine leg by Murali Vijay.
Ali looked confident in the middle hitting Jayant Yadav for a consecutive four and a six during his 45-ball stay. Thereafter, Bairstow and Stokes survived a few anxious moments to take England to 92/4 when the umpires signalled for the lunch break.–IANS